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Are You Interested in Ink?

Mario Delgado, BFA 2012, grew up in Sonoma County, Calif., drawing and knowing he wanted a career in the arts. He kept busy, landing freelance gigs sculpting, working for a sign company, at a photo booth and at street fairs. To diversify his skills, he says, “I made sure I learned several different art styles.” Delgado began exploring the art of tattooing while in high school, and after developing professional drawing skills at the Academy’s accredited School of Illustration, he opened Moth & Dagger, his own custom-shop tattoo studio near San Francisco’s Union Square. There, Delgado applies the lessons he learned at the Academy to the unconventional canvas that is the human body, always striving to realize the vision of his customers while offering expert advice…while also giving back to the community. “The human body is a beautiful thing to study and work on. Drawing on skin is my livelihood, but it also allows me to give back. For instance, I do nipple reconstructions free of charge for breast cancer patients.”

Balancing Business & Trade

Out of the many possible careers in illustration, tattooing was of interest to Delgado because he was more attracted to the commercial aspects of art. “Tattooing is more of a trade than an art…closer to illustration than fine art in that regard,” he says. “When you illustrate, you’re drawing for someone else, but fine art you do for yourself. With tattooing, you have to deal with a customer. Sometimes I get to negotiate what the customer wants and what I’d like to do, but for the most part I’m taking an idea and making it better. This is how I make money, but I like taking on clients that need illustrations—people or organizations that need them but can’t afford them, like San Francisco Women Against Rape. I did collateral materials for them. It’s incredible that it’s worked out for me, being an illustrator and a tattoo artist.”

Mario Delgado: An Unconventional Canvas
The successful San Francisco tattoo studio Moth & Dagger, run by School of Illustration graduate Mario Delgado
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